A couple of Sundays ago, I saw two boys, probably 11 or 12, at the "coffee getting station" in the balcony of our church. (Some people call it the "coffee bar" but I'm too Methodist to call anything inside the church a "bar" ... sorry.) One of them was pouring himself a cup of fancy flavored coffee as the other one looked on in horror. "But, dude, it's still coffee, even if it is flavored!"
When I was that age, I must admit that I would have had a similar reaction to coffee. I'd tried it a time or two and found it to be the most foul tasting stuff in the world.
Somewhere along the line, though, I have seen the light. And the light is dark, rich, deliciously fragrant, with a little foam on top, and truly wonderful.
While I was in high school, I still was not a coffee drinker. My town was not exactly someplace where you could get coffee other than at McDonalds or a couple of coffee shop dives where only very old people seemed to hang out. McDonalds' coffee has made great headway in recent years but had a lot to be desired back then. And I wasn't too into places where old people hung out ... though I am curiously drawn to those spots today. (hmmm ... I wonder why?)
However, as I thought ahead to college, I could imagine myself sitting around some cozy coffee house drinking that wonderful brew with friends, all whilst ruminating on the subject of world peace.
When I got to to college, though, there wasn't a coffee house in sight. There was only one "bar" in town and it truly was the type of "bar" that I was a little too Methodist to frequent. There was a sort of snack shop in the student center but the student center was called "The Barn" because it was constructed of old timbers that came out of an old barn that once housed the college's gymnasium. It just wasn't the right atmosphere for ruminations and wonderings. Heck, I don't even know if they sold coffee in The Barn.
But my first experience with coffee did occur in college. I believe it was the summer after my junior year that a good friend and I ventured on a trip to New York City for the first time. We drove out and actually stayed in Jersey, taking the bus into the city each day in order to save money. Anyway, I remember eating at a very small restaurant in the basement of a house off of Washington Square one day for lunch and, afterward, I ordered a cup of espresso. It was some of the strangest, strongest stuff I'd ever tasted but I was still intrigued and determined to figure out what this coffee craze I kept hearing about was all about.
In subsequent trips to New York, it wasn't long before we discovered the coffee house in the bottom of the Renaissance Hotel on Times Square. And not too long after that, Starbuck started popping up ... everywhere. And I got hooked on lattes. Always looking for my next fix, I could spot a new coffee house before it even had its sign up.
Not too long after that, the local chocolate shop (Winan's) in the town where I work opened a coffee bar. A co-worker and I quickly became regulars there, essentially opening the place up each morning. For several years, we got to know the owner (who had also gotten hooked on coffee in New York) and the folks working there very well. My drug of choice was a hazelnut latte though sometimes I ventured out a bit.
Over the past few years, though, I have cut out the fufu stuff of drinks with steamed milk and fancy names. I strive to get my caffeine quickly and straight. I like the places that have several blends of coffee where I can mix them into my own concoction. I avoid the flavored ones but look for the dark, rich roasts. High octane.
It's been a lot of years and taken a lot of twists and turns ... this love affair of mine. But's it's too far to turn back now. This stuff is addicting, you know!